For a green-fingered nation, we certainly throw a lot of plastic at our gardens (and our allotments, balcony pots, window boxes…and so on). This is not just unsightly – much of this plastic is disposable, with an environmental cost that far outweighs its short useful life. The humble plastic plant pot, for example (of which there are 500 million in circulation) can take more than 400 years to decompose. Not only that, but the fragments of plastic that make their way into our soils have actually been shown to inhibit the growth of the species that make our gardens function.
Luckily, a plastic free garden is possible – there are ways to garden and products available that can avoid much or all of it, leaving you with a beautiful green space that is healthier for all.
Where to start
As in your home, use up what you have first, and – as far as possible – recycle anything you are discarding. For example, reasonably clean compost bags will often be suitable for recycling with carrier bags at supermarkets (check the label), and some garden centres (eg Dobbies) will take plant pots for recycling.
Plastic free swaps
Next, consider alternatives to plastic products, and reuse or repurpose rather than buying new. Plastic free swaps may be made of bamboo (eg seed markers), clay (pots), wood (eg seed trays), jute/hemp (twine), metal (eg protective mesh), glass (plant insulation), repurposed card (eg toilet rolls for plug plant modules). Where you can, invest in good quality, non-plastic tools – these will last longer and be economic in the long term.
Finally, to cut out more plastic, experiment with ways to garden differently. Buy bare-root plants rather than potted. Make your own compost rather than buying in, or look around for a local supply (eg farmer/stable/community composting scheme) where you can collect in reused bags. Swap seeds and split perennials with friends. If you are a no-dig fan, consider dismantled cardboard boxes and 100% wool horticultural fleece to cover the beds in winter. Wherever possible, opt for home-made alternatives which reuse waste materials, and buy second hand where you can.
Read more about plastic free gardening
More plastic free gardening ideas
RHS: how to go plastic free in your garden
Gardening without plastic
Microplastics stunt the growth of worms
Plastic free gardening tips from Alys Fowler
Zero waste (and plastic free) gardening
Image credit: Filip Urban, Unsplash